A YOUTH football league – which spawned stars like Paul Gascoigne, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carol - has unveiled ambitious expansion plans.

The Russell Foster Tyne and Wear Youth Leagues currently hosts about 23,000 young players at five venues in the North East, which are presently headquartered at a purpose-built £2m site at Newbottle, near Houghton-le-Spring.

Parent charity The Russell Foster Sports Foundation, which owns and operates the site, hopes to move to a 35-acre former equestrian centre at nearby Leamside.

The new site would include more on-site parking and an undercover facility with space for three youth football pitches.

A planning application, supported by Sport England, has been lodged with Durham County Council.

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The league's founder, entrepreneur Russell Foster, said, if passed, the move would give even more young players the chance to follow in the footsteps of footballing greats.

He said: “Ours are the biggest football leagues in the country, and while I would be sad to leave Newbottle, which has been fantastic, the Leamside site will enable us to expand what we do even further.

“Leamside is only ten minutes away from the existing HQ and as the participating teams come from all over the North East it will make no difference to travelling."

Mr Foster divides his time between the UK – where his business interests include an engineering factory in Bradford, restaurants in the North East and a land development company – and South Africa.

He is involved with many charitable organisations on the country’s West Coast, including a soup kitchen and animal welfare centre and also owns the local English speaking church at Velddrif.

He has built a Church Hall, which is used by the community, an entire retirement village and is close to completing a 38-bed medical centre.

Scheduled to open in October, it is fitted with all the latest equipment and will provide emergency facilities including 24/7 ambulances and paramedics.

In South Africa he has two large restaurants, a boutique hotel, a craft brewery and a distillery and his latest project is the provision of a sanctuary for homeless and abused people.

“That will definitely be my last project, though,” said the 73-year-old. “I only went out to South Africa to retire."


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